High Standards

When it comes to music, it’s important to have high standards. That may be my opinion, but I ask you: Do you value the music you listen to? Should you answer no, well, clearly you’re putting on a front. Why would you listen to music if you didn’t value it?

Center for the Arts of Homer may be a small venue in a small town, but it’s voice is very large. Under the guidance of newly hired Ty Marshal, who is completely in his element, the center will continually be heard.

Two weekends ago, the duo that is Hot Tuna, Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane fame, came in and performed an acoustic set. This past weekend, Charlie Bertini and The AppleJazz Band hit the stage with seven to nine people at times.

There are several reading this wondering who the hell these people are. Sure, Jefferson Airplane rings a bell, but the other group does not. Those in Central New York will know. If they don’t, well, they should. They’re a bunch of local musicians.

However, they’re not just local musicians — they’re long standing ones. The list, alphabetically:

John Allred (trombone)
Charlie Bertini (trumpet)
Mark Doyle (guitar)
Ronnie France (bass)
Dave Hanlon (drums)
Ronnie Leigh (vocals)
Dave MacKenzie (saxophone)
Dave Solazzo (piano)

The ninth guy: Jim Reagan rocked a baritone sax, jumped on stage and played with the band for a couple songs.

But these guys can be seen for free, says the typical native. That’s very true, but deciding to only see these musicians perform only for free is similar to undermining them. Central New York is an area where local musicians can be seen performing a free concert or a show with a small cost.

Consider all the bands that play for free all the time. Some of them are mediocre with room for improvement, others are great, and there are those who are exceptional and should be charging people covers or tickets. It’s paying for quality. Considering this isn’t a bar, the community venue cannot rely on selling booze at inflated prices to keep its doors open.

The guys above are doing it right. They’re just as good and even better than some of the big names that you see flash on the television screen or read in magazines.

Seeing a free show will take place at a loud bar or open outdoor area, and that’s cool; it’s less than intimate and the performers may not be accessible. Places like Center for the Arts boasts a pre-show and intermission in an open room with more live music — light piano tunes. But there is beer, wine, and food available at a small price. Plus, the musicians are milling about, ready and willing to talk to you.

For the first time I was able to meet and shake the hands of Bertini and Hanlon. Again, it may not be a big deal until you see them perform. Both were relentless with their instrumentation. All of the musicians were that night. They shared the stage well, and no one tried to out perform another. The nonverbal communication was tactful; they were on the same page.

Mark Doyle made his guitar sing. Hearing Leigh, who actually sung, belted out tunes, covering “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “That’s Life,” and “Here Comes the Sun” and more. Hanlon’s soloing never ceases to amaze me.

I could sit comfortably in the seats and wait for the next act.

View from the balcony, daytime, natural lighting. Photo by C. Malone

This post is to not purposely and solely promote Center for the Arts — I simply saw a show there. The venue speaks for itself. The acoustics are amazing. A lot can take place on that stage; it can fit nine jazz artists after all.

A month or so ago, Ty gave me a tour of the venue. The old church is huge. The possibilities for what could go in there is almost endless. With most venues, the tour can stop after five minutes; the guide claps their hands and says thank you. The passion that emanated from this new director was honest and heavy, and he threw ideas out there..

Each room that we ventured into came with an explanation of what it was, what it is, and what it could/will be. The dance studio is wide open and massive. The art gallery will be able to hold a decent sized exhibition. And these are only two of the highlights. I don’t have to break out my inner child to wander and explore with my mouth agape.

As for Ty, I have to give him credit. He didn’t stand still, talked to (what seemed like everyone), and the longest that he stayed in one place was when addressing the patrons. Aside paying a ticket, there are perks should the route chosen be a member and/or a volunteer.

Supporting what you love, great music is not just showing up. It’s with a contribution. Everything else held above the rest comes at a cost, too.

So, what is wrong with having and and sticking to standards?

2 thoughts on “High Standards

  1. I’m really glad I came to read this because Ronnie Leigh is a buddy of mine from way back, and I was wondering the other day what he’s been doing. This sounds like lots of fun.

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